Tory peer makes last minute plea as fracking D-day looms

Baroness Anne McIntosh of Pickering. HARRY ATKINSON
Baroness Anne McIntosh of Pickering. HARRY ATKINSON
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anti-fRACKING campaigners and energy sector companies poured around computer screens in the early hours of this morning to find out whether a controversial planning application had been recommended for approval.

North Yorkshire County Council released details at midnight of whether their planning officer’s recommended or rejected Third Energy’s application to drill for shale gas under Ryedale outside the village of Kirby Misperton.

County councillors who sit on the planning committee meet on May 20 to give their final verdict and will take the officer’s report into careful consideration.

The application is now of significant national interest as if it goes ahead it could kick-start the country’s shale gas industry after a pause since 2011 following a temporary ban on fracking.

However in a last minute plea, Tory peer Anne McIntosh said she could not imagine any thing “more harmful” to the livlihoods of people living in and around the village.

She wants planning committee members to rake through policy guidance with a fine tooth comb as she believes the application from Third Energy, if granted, could involve fugitive emmissions, contamination of waste water, affect air quality, landscape, heritage, the amount of traffic and the price of homes.

Mrs McIntosh, who was formerly an MP for Thirsk and Malton, said: “We are nearing the last stages of the decision and we are looking at Ryedale potentially becoming the first part of England that is going to permit fracking. It is a journey into the unknown. Once the genie is out of ht bottle you can’t put it back.

She added that for an area reliant on farming and tourism, she “can’t imagine anything that would be more harmful”.

She wants committee members to ask probing questions on how emmissions from the ground will be dealt with decades after the drilling well is decommissioned.

She said: “My understanding is that land owners are responsible but they are not given any kind of support package to deal with the land in the future.”

Waste water contamination has also been a concern, however an underground pipeline to transport chemicals and water away from the site will now be transported by lorries.

Ms McIntosh’s vocal warnings come as Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said jobs in the fracking sector could replace those lost in the energy sector in Scotland while taking questions in the House of Commons on Thursday.

She said fracking is “a massive jobs and growth opportunity for many communities where employment is desperately needed”.

She said: “One of the policy options I am looking at in my Department, together with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, is what more we can do in the energy space for those who have lost their jobs.”

Labour’s Shadow Energy Secretary Lisa Nandy, said any decision on Kirby Misperton should not be overrided by the Government at a later date so that a communities wishes are respected - as they are with windfarm developments.

Third Energy are applying to explore for gas at the site, and if it is viable, they might operate there for up to nine years.

No gas will be burned, known as flaring, and all gas is transported through existing infrastructure to Knapton Generating Station and used to produce electricity.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) will carry out its own monitoring of the land around the drilling site.